Mauritanian journalist jailed —for protesting Israel

In a bizarre irony for a state that rules in the name of Arab nationalism, Mauritanian authorities detained Mohamed Nema Oumar, publisher of Al-Houriya weekly, June 12, holding him for some 30 hours at a police station in the the capital Nouakchott—after an article he wrote criticized a politician for participating in festivities marking Israel’s 60th anniversary.

In a complaint brought by Sen. Mohcen Ould El Hadj of the southwestern city of Rosso, Oumar is charged with “insult” and “defamation.” But the accused are not normally jailed on these charges unless there is a serious flight risk. Oumar was actually arrested as he left the VIP lounge at Nouakchott airport after accompanying Mauritania’s President Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi on an official visit to Libya. The president’s office now says the case is a purely “judicial” and “without any political basis.” (RSF via, June 17)

Mauritania, despite its former close ties to Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, is one of the few Arab-ruled countries to recognize Israel. The handy Lycos IQ informs us:

153 countries in the world recognize Israel, but few Arab nations do. Israel only has full diplomatic relations with Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania, and some ties with Morocco, Tunisia, Omar, Qatar and Bahrain. The other Muslim nations do not recognize Israel at all.

Mauritania’s rulers seem to believe their bread is buttered on the side of the West and Israel now. But, as with the surreal banning of Nakba commemorations in Jordan, this kind of persecution can only fuel a jihadist backlash…

See our last posts on Mauritania, Israel and the struggle in the Sahel.